As you might be knowing, the sixth stage, between Oruro and La Paz, was cancelled following bad weather, leading the participants to an added rest day before the 7th stage kicked off. The cancellation compelled the organisers to drastically change the course in the 7th stage, which was originally planned between La Paz and Uyuni. The then route of the marathon stage included 322km but was repositioned by combining some sections of the cancelled 6th stage. These changes brought down the total distance of the 7th stage to just 161km. Interestingly, despite these last moment changes, Hero MotoSports’ Joaquim Rodrigues and CS Santosh were able to display their rallying mettle with a commendable finish. The former finished in the 18th position, whereas Santosh raised his bar with a 38th.
TVS Sherco’s Joan Pedrero finished at the 19th position, while his compatriot Adrien Metge grabbed the 12th position. Clearly, the debut TVS rider, Metge, has performed exceptionally well following a bad start. He stands at the 41st position in the overall ranking, which has improved many folds since the first stage.
J-Rod was playing it cautious since the marathon stage bars the participants from using any kind of service assistance on the bike at the end of the stage. The bikes, naturally, will be in the same condition for the 8th stage as they were at the end of the 7th – working or not, doesn't matter. The Portuguese rider was able to finish the stage in 2 hours 19 minutes and 46 seconds. Notably, Rod’s overall rank of 11th stays put.
Explaining his day, J-Rod said, “I made some mistakes with my roadbook while doing the corrections. I just had to follow the lines from the other guys. Once in the dunes, I navigated really well and I didn’t get lost. There was a little bit of pressure in the dunes, but nothing major. After that, I just took it easy to the end. I am happy to bring the bike back to the marathon bivouac in good shape for tomorrow's stage.”
Santosh closed the day with 2 hours 35 minutes 14 seconds on the clock and a 38th position finish. His overall standing is 67th, which is a result of a massive penalty he received for missing a waypoint in the third stage. He said, “I also made mistake while correcting the roadbook after the stage got changed yesterday. I was without navigation for the first 60-65 km, after that the roadbook matched. I did what I could today, made some good time. I passed a lot of riders. So, to finish in 38th place today is pretty good. The bike is running fine and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s stage.”
The 7th stage was led by Honda’s Ricky Brabec with 2 hours 2 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock, followed by Paulo Goncalves (Honda) at the second spot. The overall leader, Sam Sunderland of KTM, grabbed the third spot in this particular stage and is sandwiched between a slew of Hondas. To be particular, the next two riders, Joan Barreda (4th) and Michael Metge (5th), were both on Hondas.
For the second part of the marathon stage, the entire circus will cover a timed section of 492km between Uyuni and Salta. The rally will also leave the Bolivian Altiplano and enter into Argentina. The course contains a dune section in the initial part, but opens up into a green and water-rich section with many rivers. Certainly, the course will provide its own level of difficulties. But the landscape, which is at a lower altitude than the previous few stages, is going to be very beautiful and the environmental conditions will be a little less harsh on the participants. Until next time.
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